eye of newt

The Many Egregious Flip-flops of Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich — both of him. Photo: Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

There’s something very odd about the sudden emergence of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich as the GOP’s leading “not Romney” candidate. No, not that he’s a twice-divorced admitted adulterer gaining traction in a party dominated by God-fearing social conservatives. It’s that one of the most common gripes about Mitt Romney — if not the  most common one — is that he lacks core values, and chooses positions based on political expediency, not sincere beliefs. The anti-Romney, you might expect, would be someone of pronounced consistency. Asked recently by Fox News why conservatives should prefer him over Romney, Gingrich tried to play up that image. “First of all, I have a lifetime record of being a consistent conservative,” he said. Except that … he doesn’t. Through the years, Gingrich has demonstrated a willingness to cravenly flip-flop in ways that might make Romney blush. Here are some of the most notable examples:

Health-Insurance Mandate:

  • Flip: “Personal responsibility extends to the purchase of health insurance. Citizens should not be able to cheat their neighbors by not buying insurance, particularly when they can afford it, and expect others to pay for their care when they need it.” — June 2007
  • Flop: “I am against any effort to impose a federal mandate on anyone because it is fundamentally wrong and I believe unconstitutional.” — May 16, 2011


  • Flip: “I think if you have mandatory carbon caps combined with a trading system, much like we did with sulfur, and if you have a tax-incentive program for investing in the solutions, that there’s a package there that’s very, very good. And frankly, it’s something I would strongly support.” — February 2, 2007
  • Flop: “A carbon cap and trade system … would lead to corruption, political favoritism, and would have a huge impact on the economy.” — April 21, 2008

Climate Change:

  • Flip: “I think is that the evidence is sufficient that we should move towards the most effective possible steps to reduce carbon-loading of the atmosphere.” — April 10, 2007
  • Flop: “I actually don’t know whether global warming is occurring.” — November 8, 2011

Paul Ryan’s Budget Plan:

  • Flip: “I don’t think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering. I don’t think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate. …. [Paul Ryan’s Medicare proposal] is too big a jump.” — May 15, 2011
  • Flop: “I made a mistake. And I called Paul Ryan today, who’s a very close personal friend and I said that. The fact is that I have supported what Ryan has tried to do on the budget.” — May 17, 2011


  • Flip: “Exercise a no-fly zone this evening … Provide help to the rebels to replace [Qaddafi] … All we have to say is that we think that slaughtering your own citizens is unacceptable and that we’re intervening. And we don’t have to send troops. All we have to do is suppress his air force, which we could do in minutes.” — March 7, 2011
  • Flop: “I would not have intervened. I think there were a lot of other ways to affect Qaddafi … I would not have used American and European forces.” — March 23, 2011

Criminal Court Trials for Suspected Terrorists:

  • Flip: “Well, I think if [members of the Bush administration] believe they have enough evidence to convict [Jose Padilla], going through the process of convicting him and holding him, I suspect, may be for the rest of his life without parole would not be – would hardly be seen as a loss. I think this administration is still wrestling with what are the real ground rules for dealing with people who are clearly outside of normal warfare? They’re not wearing a uniform. They’re not part of an army. They are openly threatening to kill thousands or even millions of people.” — November 22, 2005
  • Flop: “Why would you take a Nigerian national who just tried to blow up a plane over Detroit … Why would you take that person, put them in the American criminal justice system, give them an attorney, read them their Miranda rights? — January 4, 2010